Adoption: Casey’s Story Part 1

Susie and I talked for years about adoption but never took action until one day, staring off to the horizon, Susie sighed and said she’d be unfulfilled if she died without adopting. Which surprised me. I didn’t realize the desire ran so deep.

“Ok, let’s do it,” I said, —a response so unexpected it didn’t register.

“Do what?” she asked—thinking, Rent a movie? Go to dinner?

“Let’s adopt”

“Really?” She was stunned.

“Yes, really.” And so it began.

Our assumption was ‘buy American’ and go through the Foster-adopt system. Several friends had done so and had wonderful experiences, and we dove in; but for so many odd reasons, too many to enumerate—personal conflicts with Foster care staff, paperwork issues—the cards seemed stacked against us. As if destined to be denied, after nearly a year of effort, we gave up, shut down our application and walked away teary-eyed and empty handed, believing our dream had just died.

We didn’t realize our peculiar experience with the California Foster Care system put us on path to one of God’s greatest blessings in our life: China and Casey.

How did we chose China? Actually, China chose us.

We homeschooled our kids, and daughter Nikki was teaching dance classes in our home. She had about 45 students, two of whom were young Asian sisters, delivered to our home everyday by their white Dad. One day Susie asked him what nationality they were.

“Korean,” he said.

“So when am I going to get to meet your Korean wife?”

He chuckled and said “My wife is not Korean, we adopted our daughters.”

“Really? Tell me more.” He did, elaborating on the process and the agency they had worked through, Holt International. Twenty minutes later, much to his surprise, Susie declared, “We’re in.”

We contacted Holt and started the process. China, it turned out, was the only country that would work with us. We were too old for everyone else, but China would work with parents whose combined age was less than100 years old. When our paperwork was submitted, we clocked in at 98.

The tons of paperwork was atrocious, and thank God we enlisted our bookkeeper, Ann, to help (aka ‘do’) the endless forms.

Holt International was wonderful! Our liaison/social worker with Holt interviewed our family as a whole and each child individually, and then asked if we were open to some advice on the age of the child we were requesting to adopt. Sure, yes, please, bring it on.

Because of stories we’d heard about older kids not getting adopted, and also because of our age, we had requested an older child, maybe age 6-10. Nobody chose kids in that age bracket, and those kids were neglected. Our social worker broached what had to be a very sensitive subject with some tender-but-brutal truths: there was a veritable ocean of unwanted children in China, the majority of whom would never be candidates for adoption. The adoption pool was just a sliver of the total number of kids, the tip of the iceberg. The huge majority of children would not be adopted—they would be children of the state; whatever the town orphanage in which they grew up was called would be their last name.

She told us this harsh reality, then seeming to switch topics, said she was ‘very impressed’ with the tone & tenor of our family.

“You have a very balanced, healthy environment here”, she said, “—and therefore I suggest that you opt for a younger, more malleable child, young enough to be conformed to your environment rather than an older child who would be disruptive…”

Her advice was heartbreaking yet thoughtful, tender, kind, heartfelt, and under the canopy of those gloomy truths, seemed wise. So we took her advice and changed our form to requesting ‘Girl, 0-2 years old’.

Why did we select ‘girl’ when already had three daughters? Simple: boys were not available. China only put girls up for adoption. The Chinese government had a ‘one child per family’ rule. Families with only one child were paid stipends and shown preferential treatment by the government; but families with two children not only lost the money but had to pay additional taxes. By tradition, since a son would care for the parents in their old age, and a daughter would not, many girls were either aborted or given up for adoption—try again for a boy.

So adopting a boy was not just unlikely, it was impossible, inconceivable, not on the menu—like ordering pizza at Panda Express. Not happening, period.

Which is why it was ludicrous when, with paperwork submitted and being processed in China, with nothing left to do but wait, maybe 90 days before we’d get ‘the call’—it was ludicrous for Susie to suggest, “Wouldn’t it be great if we got a boy?…”

Sure, that’d be swell. But it’s not happening. Unthinkable. Why would you even entertain that thought?

“Oh, you know…”

“Look, it is not happening so don’t even think about it.’

“Well”, she said softly, “I’m praying for a boy.”

“Ok, fine—good luck, just don’t get your hopes up.”

(To be continued)

Dirk Mullenger

Raised in NY, college at University of Iowa, year abroad in Paris. Tight with my wife and 4 children. Business, writer, guitarist, skier, drives a convertible. One person's hindsight is another person's foresight.

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6 Discussion to this post

  1. Julia says:

    This was a great post! I have seen Casey in Nikkis videos before and have always wondered about his story 🙂 Looking forward to reading part 2

  2. Michele aka Aunt Michele says:

    Love this story. Even though I was part of your daily lives back then, I love hearing it agsin ! Can’t wait for art two!

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